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Apr 07

Mystery shopping: Become a mystery shopper and get paid to shop and eat out

Reading Time: 8 mins

Editor’s Note: This mystery shopping article has been updated on 7th April 2020 to reflect the UK lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. The information on shopping in-store isn’t currently applicable and is for reference only. The sections on online shopping and giving feedback over the phone, internet, etc. are more relevant at present. Check the NHS website for information on staying safe.

 

Become a mystery shopper and get FREE meals in restaurants, FREE stays in hotels and FREE drinks in bars.

Many mystery shopping companies will provide you with different assignments depending on who their clients are. We show you here how to get mystery shopping jobs and bag lots of freebies as a mystery shopper.

 

 

What is mystery shopping?

Mystery Shopper

Nowadays, all industry sectors employ mystery shoppers – retail, automotive, financial services, hospitality, property, call centres, public services, travel, and even the voluntary sector – so there’s a huge range of work available.

If you become a mystery shopper you could be enjoying a weekend break one month and phoning a call centre to complain about your gas bill the next.

You don’t need any formal qualifications to be a mystery shopper – but you do need to have good observational skills and a good memory.

Mystery shopping (sometimes known as secret shopping) has been around for 60 years and is now highly regulated in the UK. The Market Research Society has created a code of conduct, and standards are maintained by trade bodies such as the Mystery Shopping Providers Association.

 

Good part-time work

how to become a mystery shopper

Mystery shopping is very flexible and not usually suitable as a full-time job, but it can be good to fit around other jobs in your life.

And remember that mystery shoppers count as self-employed, so you’ll need to declare your earnings to HMRC. Find out here about paying tax when you make extra money.

 

Want to get a FREE MoneyMagpie eBook about how to be a mystery shopper? Download it HERE

 

 

Jasmine’s experience of mystery shopping

See here what Jasmine thinks about mystery shopping after her experiences of it.

Check out our bumper article on freebies and bag yourself even more free stuff.

 

 

Different types of mystery shopper jobs

Report-only mystery shopper

how to get freebies

This is the most common option. You’ll be given a brief and a checklist of things to look out for. You need to follow your instructions (without letting anybody know you’re testing them), evaluate the response and then provide feedback, usually by way of an online questionnaire.

Telephone mystery shopper

get paid for feedback

If you’re better at playing a role on the phone than in person, you might prefer this option – there’s plenty of work available. You’ll be given a company to call with a set of questions that a typical customer may have. Again, you’ll need to assess the response and provide feedback.

Postal monitoring

what is postal monitoring

This one requires minimum effort. Your home address is simply used for receiving brochures and other promotional material. You return the items, and the content and speed of delivery is measured.

N.B. don’t be conned by ‘mystery shopping’ scams that get you to receive money into your bank account and then send most of it on to a foreign account to ‘test’ the money transfer company.

These are totally bogus and should be avoided and, ideally, reported to Action Fraud. Be careful only to use the mystery shopping agencies we mention on MoneyMagpie so that you’re not scammed.

Note that you should take care when handling items coming through the post during the coronavirus pandemic. Ideally you should use disposable gloves and throw away outer packaging. Clean objects down with a soapy cloth (or, even better, use 70% alcohol spray), or put soft items through the washing machine if possible. Also wash hands thoroughly afterwards. You could leave items aside in a safe place (like a high shelf set aside especially for the purpose) for a while before handling them, too.

 

Email mystery shopping

email mystery shopping

You’ll be sending specific enquiries to websites and monitoring the speed and content of the response. Depending on your personality, writing emails is potentially much easier than talking to businesses in person or on the phone!

Again, you’ll need to assess and then pass on your findings.

 

Covert video mystery shopper

how to get freebies

This is specialist stuff and only for well-trained shoppers. Essentially, you’re given a brief; you enter the premises as a customer, and then you record the entire process using covert video cameras. Companies need clear pictures, so don’t go for this if you record your feet at family events!

 

giving your opinion online

get paid to do surveys

 

It’s not mystery shopping as such, but giving your opinions about products or services through online survey companies is the same type of thing.

It’s another easy and quick way of making some extra cash in your spare time.

You have to be careful which online survey companies you join though. These are the ones that we like:

 

 

Make sure you set up a separate email address before you sign up to any of these. Give this separate email address to them when they ask for contact details so that your usual inbox isn’t flooded with offers and ads (that’s one of the ways they make their money).

Find out more about online surveys and how to make the most money from them here.

 

 

How to get involved as a mystery shopper

Step 1: Find the right mystery shopping agency for you.

save money shopping

Check out the list below and sign up with one of the many mystery shopping agencies on offer. It’s not a complete list, the full list of genuine agencies can be found in our mystery shopping eBook (which is absolutely free!)

Some specialise in specific industries, others are more general. You could try investigating the major department stores – Selfridges for example has its own mystery shopping panel.

Be sure to check out…

 

 

This list contains some of the better mystery shopping agencies in the UK. We have the complete list in our Mystery Shopping eBook.

Most of the agencies will get you to take a test before they’ll let you in. These can be quite tricky so you might have to do them a few times before getting them right. Don’t be put off though – persist!

If you want to find a company on your own…

  • Make sure they’re based in the UK with a UK phone number and address.
  • Don’t just put ‘mystery shopping’ into your search engine. All sorts of dodgy companies could come up.
  • If you see a company you haven’t heard of before, put their name into the search bar and see what websites like ours say about them. Check the forums too as people who have had experience of them will say what they think.
  • Make sure you keep an eye out for the small ads too. Local papers and recruitment agencies often carry mystery shopping adverts.
  • You should be looking for the ones you’ll get the most out of, whether that’s the pay you receive for the jobs you do, or the freebies you get from the places you inspect.
  • It should never cost you to join a company – they should be paying you for the work you do.

 

Step 2: Go out in the field.

Mystery shopper in disguise

Once the agency accepts you, you can begin looking for jobs on their website.

You need to go and shop – or eat – or enjoy a show – but the main objective is to follow the guidelines exactly, without having the instructions in front of you.

You’ll need to report on products and services, which can include anything from aspects of the decor, cleanliness, atmosphere, how the staff deal with other customers, how many staff there are and what they’re all doing.

Most mystery shopping agencies ask that you don’t write notes or make what you’re doing obvious while you’re ‘on the job’, as it can affect the way you’re treated by the staff. The company’s main objective is to get an impartial experience.

Note that at time of writing, the UK is on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and you should only be doing minimal shopping trips for essential groceries right now. You can however make a note of the in-person mystery shopping opportunities available and apply for them when life returns to normal!

 

Step 3: Report on your mystery shopping experience.

save money shopping

This will usually involve filling in an online questionnaire with short or longer answers about your experience as a customer.

You’ll receive payment/reimbursement after you’ve reported on your job, which you’ll ideally do within 24 hours of completing the task.

Pay rates differ from company to company and depend on the complexity of the work.

Generally, you can expect to earn £5 – £25 per task plus expenses (but as little as £1 – £5 for phone work).

 

A Money Magpie’s mystery shopping Experience

Make money mystery shopping

Our Publishing Editor, Marc Crosby, decided to join up to a mystery shopping agency to see just how easy it was to earn money. Here he tells us about the experience:

“I joined up to one of the online mystery shopping agencies and, after putting in a few details, was asked to do a mystery shop for a fast food chain in my local area. It didn’t take long to be offered the job and they were willing to pay £20 for completing it.

It really did feel like going undercover, little did the staff know I was watching their every move, mwahahaha…well, except, they probably did, because mystery shopping takes a little practice. I was told to note down how long it took from asking for my order to the meal being handed to me, which meant using my phone as a stopwatch. That’s easier said than done when you’re juggling your wallet around.

By the time the meal was handed to me and I’d fumbled for the ‘stop’ button, they probably knew what I was up to (which might explain why a member of staff held the door open for me as I left, wishing me a good day – not a normal procedure at fast food stores!) But, hey ho, good service and I gave a good score. All I needed to do was go back and quickly answer a few questions that took no longer than half an hour to complete.

I was paid within two weeks and was offered loads of mystery shopping work after. Honestly, it could have been a nice little earner if I had more time to do it.

So if you’re in doubt, I’d say give it a go. Mystery shopping really is quite easy money, plus the company usually pays for your food/item, so that’s another bonus!”

Whatever you do, don’t miss our number one article 10 easy ways to make quick cash – featuring the very best money makers around including mystery shopping!

 

Find a mystery shopping job

 


 

 

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FIONA
FIONA
11 years ago

JASMINE I am looking for a job in about six months at the end of an admin contract. I would like to do mystery shopping and one that pays well and promtly and will provide me with regular part time or full time work any ideas? I have vast experience in this field as I come from a sales background and complain if I find service is poor for free though! Do you know of any companies that need testers e.g to test cosmetics say or any companies that would employ instore mystery shoppers or spys? Always fancied going undercover!!!… Read more »

Jasmine
Admin
Jasmine(@jasmine)
11 years ago
Reply to  FIONA

Oh there are lots of agencies you can join. I’ve done work with TNS-globall (address in the article) but the others that we list above are good too. Just join them all then you will get lots of shops/restaurants etc to review. Also look at our article on conducting market research here https://www.moneymagpie.com/article/1567/being-a-market-researcher/. There are some good ideas and contacts in that. If you want to be asked questions about products then go to www.sarosresearch.com and sign up with them. It’s good cash for an evening of saying what you think about products, adverts, ideas and more.

Don Lobaugh
Don Lobaugh
11 years ago

Interesting and good stuff. Keep it coming. I am always interested in the story

George
George
11 years ago

I have completed a couple of assignments with a company called Retail Eyes, they seem very good so far and I have been paid the fee set with no problems.

schmuck
schmuck
11 years ago

email me soon winston@winstonglobal.org

Sadye Brees
Sadye Brees
11 years ago

Good post and nice design, is this a regular template?

Ayesha
Ayesha
11 years ago

Hmmm – I just applied on the JKS website – filled out all the info requested and set up an account which immediately flagged up as “deactivated”. The link next to this flag takes me to a page which has a link to take me back to the initial page……………….. methinks me’s been had….? Damn it…..anyone had any success with the co’s listed on this page?

Paul Prowse
Paul Prowse(@paul-prowse)
11 years ago
Reply to  Ayesha

Ayesha,

For JKS, once you have completed your application form you should receive an email that says your application has been ‘manually deactivated’ This is because this company vets each application form before they allow it into their database. If you have been successful in your application they will ‘activate’ your application within 10 days.

If this hasn’t happened after 10 days, e-mail JKS directly (info@jksmysteryshopping.co.uk )

Ayesha
Ayesha
11 years ago
Reply to  Paul Prowse

Well,10 days passed and not a squeak. Emailed JKS as instructed by Paul………..no reply as yet. Odd that I have signed up to a few and haven’t heard anything at all………has anyone has any luck with these sites/companies and actually earned money?

Jasmine
Admin
Jasmine(@jasmine)
11 years ago
Reply to  Ayesha

I’ve done quite a lot of work with TNS-Global in the past. Two friends of mine have worked with some of the others. It’s odd that you haven’t heard back from them

Mrs Hibbs
Mrs Hibbs
10 years ago
Reply to  Jasmine

I have worked as a Video Mystery Shopper for 15 years now and get most of my work from Performance in People, they are great to work for and always pay on time. Anyone thinking of doing this type of job…DO NOT REGISTER WITH COMPANIES THAT ASK FOR A FEE OF ANY KIND.
If the agency has not emailed you then give them a call and introduce yourself…the reason they have’nt emailed is probably because they don’t have any work available in the area’s you specified so be prepared to travel further.

John G
John G
12 years ago

Does one need to be wary if a mystery shopping co want to charge you to join? I thought they shouldn;t do this if they were genuine. UK Mystery Shopper want tocharge a one of fee of £22.95. Can anyone advise?

Paul Prowse
Paul Prowse(@paul-prowse)
12 years ago
Reply to  John G

John,

You should never have to pay to become a mystery shopper – there is absolutely no need.

Use one of the companies mentioned in the article above instead, who will not charge you for the privilege!

jowanda sturdivant
jowanda sturdivant
12 years ago

do you know anything about larox flowsys agency they have something to do with mystery shopping and i cant find it anywhere on line.

Jasmine
Admin
Jasmine(@jasmine)
12 years ago

That looks like an engineering company, not mystery shopping

lucie
lucie
12 years ago

has anyone actually cashed the ckeck, done the shopping, got paid? Did it go well?

Nicola
Nicola
12 years ago

The new mystery shopping company page has been shut down.

Rich12345
Rich12345
12 years ago

Some other great sites include:

.ukims.co.uk/docs/services/mystery-shopping.asp

mysteryshopmybusiness.

.oldenough2drink.

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